Cranberries always remind barman Jason Patz of his great-aunt Muriel. When Patz wrote the drink menu for the Occidental, the more casual sibling of Williams & Graham next door, a cranberry liqueur from Denver's own Leopold Bros. Distillery reminded him of his childhood Thanksgivings; apparently Muriel made a pretty badass cranberry sauce. She also liked bourbon and punk rock (those must have been really fun holidays), so Patz mixed the cranberry spirit with bourbon and slapped a punk-rock name on the cocktail: Sonic Reducer ($9), after a song by the Dead Boys, a punk band that Muriel liked.
Here’s his ode to those Thanksgiving meals with Muriel:
2 ounces Evan Williams “black label” bourbon
.5 ounce Leopold Bros. New England Cranberry Liqueur
.75 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
.75 ounce honey syrup
Occidental bartenders Meesh Nicole and Michelle Glancey, who shake up a ton of these cocktails as a team every Sunday and Monday night, showed how to make a Sonic Reducer while explaining how the bourbon cocktail tastes and why they like it so much.
“I think it’s a great first pour,” Nicole says of Evan Williams, a bourbon named after the man who opened the first commercial distillery in Kentucky in 1783. “It’s a great bourbon. It mixes well and you can drink it straight,” she says.
“We really like what Leopold Bros. Distillery believes in, and what they’re making,” Glancey adds, referring specifically to the Denver distillery’s New England Cranberry Liqueur. “How they feel about the people that they are serving is how we feel about the people we’re serving. They care about the people drinking their spirits. It kind of matches our hospitality at the Occidental.”
The liqueur is made from two varieties of cranberries grown in Maine and Massachusetts and crushed at the distillery. The resulting juice is mixed with fruit brandy and sugar, then rested in glass vessels. Later, it is packaged in small batches of about 200 bottles.
“The whole Occidental team is really big on anything that comes from Leopold Bros. Distillery,” Nicole adds. “They’re doing things that no one else is doing in the industry. They’re an incredible distillery — and they’re local.”
A honey syrup balances the bourbon, cranberry liqueur and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. At the Occidental, the syrup is made by combining equal parts water and honey. “It’s important to know to incorporate honey syrup instead of regular honey,” Nicole explains, “so you can actually mix it, and you’re actually adding the right amount of sweetener to the cocktail.”
Nicole also recommends pairing the Sonic Reducer with the Occidental’s chicken wings ($11), which are tossed in honey-mustard sauce. “You get that sweet and you get that heat,” she says, “but it’s not overpowering at all. The cranberry tartness just kind of cuts through it.”
“This is my go-to when people first come in and they don’t know what they want,” Glancey says. “If you like something sweet, you like it. If you like something tart, you like it. If you love whiskey, you love the fucking Sonic Reducer.”
Nicole agrees: “You get two ounces of solid whiskey in there. It packs a punch,” she says.